CNBC: This 17 Year Old Web Site Devastated By Google's Panda Update

Jun 24, 2014 • 8:47 am | comments (79) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization
 

panda cookingCNBC published a story on a 17 year old web site that was nailed in the latest Panda update, Panda 4.0. The story is named Google's secretive updates leave small sites scrambling.

Here is the introductory paragraph:

For 17 years, Linda Stradley has been posting recipes and cooking advice online to legions of followers, drawing enough traffic and Web advertising to support her and her husband, who are both retired. Type "how to cook a prime rib" into Google's search engine, and Stradley's site - whatscookingamerica.net - is among the top results.

I see stories like this every day in the various forums and it is sad. But it reads more sad when you have a professional writer from a major publication publish the story.

There is no doubt the site took an absolutely major hit on Panda 4.0's release. Here is the SearchMetrics chart:

whatscookingamerica searchmetricssize

The 72 year old said "I've never seen anything like this and I had no idea it was going to happen." Adding, "I've worked very hard on this and put in lots of hours. It's not just a toy."

"We're always working to improve Google so search results are higher quality and more relevant," Jason Freidenfelds, Google said in an e-mail to CNBC. "We carefully consider and test every update we make, and the goal is always to improve search results for you," he added.

This all brings me back to the Florida update, it really does.

In WebmasterWorld the webmasters and SEOs are talking about the story. The moderator of the forum wrote:

Since the site is so old, she was probably fortunate enough to be adding truly unique content which was well linked to. 17 years later, they're competing with 0000's of similar sites.

I feel bad but the site does need a facelift.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

Image credit to Cooking Panda

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Comments:

F1 Steve

06/24/2014 01:02 pm

Have google been adding more rich snippets and recipes to knowledge graphs? I can see G displaying all recipes in the future without the need to visit recipe sites. "I feel bad but the site does need a facelift." Clearly G doesn’t mind serving up crummy looking websites, just look at a certain website for affiliates, I mean visitors! I suspect Linda didn’t do enough public brown nosing to keep her in favour, or maybe she just didn't have the have the link wheel, receptacle link scheme and forum profile spam our resident whiter than white hat coasts off! ;)? Good story anyway Bazza!

Vanessa Fox

06/24/2014 01:02 pm

My advice that she didn't ask for: separate the "history of" content and "how to cook" content to different pages. Right now, if I'm looking for how to advice for cooking brisket or just a recipe, I land on this page: http://whatscookingamerica.net/Beef/Smoked-Brisket.htm It's not obvious at all that the information I want is there so I'm just going to bounce back to the search results and click a different listing. (The information I want *is* there, but it's two full scrolls of the page down. She's trying to help visitors solve two different tasks with one page, but visitors will generally come to the site with one task or another. Put each task on its own page and then make it easy to click between those pages. Panda isn't always about not enough content on a page. It can also be about making it too hard for people to easily know that a page is the right one to solve their problem. Even if the actual content is great, if searchers can't easily find it on the page, they're going to bail and look for something else.

Jonathan

06/24/2014 01:04 pm

So just because the site needs a facelift, the 17 years of info on that site is suddenly less valuable. BS!

google-disses-old-ladies

06/24/2014 01:05 pm

So Mr Google, are those search results better without this site? I very much doubt it. What do the Durrants and other google apologists have to say? I bet you think it is her fault. This 72 year old lady is a master spammer no doubt.

John Romaine

06/24/2014 01:13 pm

Just goes to show you can do everything right, and STILL get slammed.

Michael Martinez

06/24/2014 01:36 pm

Yeah, her recent acquisition of backlinks from insurance Websites couldn't possibly figure into all this.

F1 Steve

06/24/2014 01:45 pm

Wouldn't penguin need to have been run for that to impact rankings m8?

rteyurtuyrtu

06/24/2014 02:43 pm

Doosh

I-Luv-My-Gran

06/24/2014 02:57 pm

Oh, so now it´s the poor old lady´s fault. She was probably topping up her insurance bonds in respect to her finer years and all...and now you want to blame her when it´s not even her "search engine thinga me" dooble flop. I think that´s what they all it. Anyway, how dare you disrespect this fine senior citizen of the US of A. You should hang your head in shame. Your own granny will be turning in her grave to see what you have stooped down to.

Michael Martinez

06/24/2014 02:59 pm

Tush, tush. Be civil. And decide on a single screen name. People might think you were carrying out some personal feud or something.

Michael Martinez

06/24/2014 03:01 pm

No, the weird links in her profile don't have to be connected to any loss of search referral traffic. It could be there are not enough of them to matter, or they were already discounted months ago. But the fact there are such links amid relatively modest growth in the profile suggests to me that someone thought it might be time to "do some SEO" for the site. That is often the reason why these older sites get into trouble. It doesn't have to be the case here but it looks suspicious.

Durant Jr.

06/24/2014 03:15 pm

So this site was getting around 1million visits a month and still ranks for well over 50k links. The site sucks balls, looks like 1 huge adwords portal. Everything is linked just to be linked. Looks like silo's gone wild. Usability is a 2/10 site structure is based on a designer with add on steroids.

Adam Heaton

06/24/2014 03:42 pm

It's not all about content, it's about the user experience as you should know as Google say it in every damn interview they have. I would imagine a redesign of the website (mobile friendly) would bring some of her rankings back so she's back to competing with other sites.

Jamo

06/24/2014 04:13 pm

Its total crap and you know it. Same with MetaFilter, reasonable sites get crushed because Google has decided to become the arbiter of what a good website is. Yes, it is probably a good idea for a 70 yr old site owner to keep up with Google and their EVER CHANGING guidelines but this is just more collateral damage IMO.

Jamo

06/24/2014 04:15 pm

Geez Barry, couldn't you at least drop the poor woman a branded link?

RyanMJones

06/24/2014 04:20 pm

A quick look and I can see a few duplicate content issues with the site. Some of the recipes and the lead in text are being repeated on several different URLs. There also appear to be a lot of blogs using some of the same recipes. I'm not sure if the blogs took from this site, or this site took from the blogs though. The site also loads at url.net and url.net/index.html with no redirect. Some of the title tags are literally just comma separated keyword lists. No one of these things is likely causing the issue, but when you combine them all it can start to look like other sites panda was made to tackle.

RyanMJones

06/24/2014 04:42 pm

yup. search is now all about verbs. figure out what your users are trying to "do" and shape your page to help them accomplish that action in the easiest way possible. That's what Google is trying to reward.

justme

06/24/2014 05:29 pm

Google = low quality and Google = CORRUPT

Fedor

06/24/2014 05:30 pm

With 5 million visits a month, this old lady's driving a Royce.

www

06/24/2014 05:32 pm

you need to check matt cutts blog. where is contextual link only for link.

tongo

06/24/2014 05:34 pm

that guys (durant, etc) they may be "google top contributors". I don;t know what the benefits from google they get, may be some kind of white lists for specified urls.

googlebot

06/24/2014 05:36 pm

google not have a user experience. just open any "organic search of that "search engine"" and be bombed by ads above fold, lot of youtube videos, google sites, dublicated sites in serp (paid?), lot of adwords ads. If you find what you looking for in 1 hour period - you are very lucky.

hobart

06/24/2014 05:37 pm

google is low quality itself.

clark

06/24/2014 05:40 pm

very "high quality". and they are happy what able to process a few verbs, but general auditory unable to find anything in that "search engine".

tuba

06/24/2014 05:42 pm

google itself looks crummy, mostly in "organic serp" pages.

incrediblehelp

06/24/2014 06:16 pm

She also has a ton of backlinks from "links" pages and directories which are considered garbage by Google now.

F1 Steve

06/24/2014 06:22 pm

At least people like Durante prosper on link schemes, shame he casts judgment from his ivory tower that's a sudden shade of black! Go rel nofollow them links Durante and reclaim your position of 'holier than thou' on the boards!!!!!!!!

Matt Cutts

06/24/2014 06:22 pm

thanks, the blog is good, it's packed with lots of stuff.

Linker

06/24/2014 06:33 pm

Twat, it's about the links! Google doesn't give a shit about ur user experience!

Seriously

06/24/2014 07:16 pm

@Barry, why didn't you provide a link to her website? Lets facelift?

nrobin9

06/24/2014 07:48 pm

All of this could be due to the competition getting its act together and ranking higher. It's not just about what you are doing, it's also about what the other guy is doing. Websites don't exist in a vacuum.

Mr. Google

06/24/2014 08:49 pm

It's a quality-related change, it doesn't get released unless the data indicates that results are improved. Doubting that is a fairly silly thing to do. The number of "good" websites that are hurt by these updates is miniscule. Google runs enough data on their changes before they are released that they can even tell you how many "good" websites will be affected beforehand.

ChrisB

06/24/2014 09:41 pm

Does anyone honestly feel that Google's SERPs have improved from where they were Pre-Panda/Penguin? I don't. I think they let the perfect be the enemy of the good. They had good results, but they wanted perfect results, and they tinkered in vain pursuit of perfection and ended up with something less good. But of course all the employees at Google can claim at least that they were busy working on something.

Durant Imboden

06/24/2014 09:53 pm

I visited the site and thought it looked fine (at least from an editorial point of view), but let's face it: The recipe space is extremely competitive, and a small change in Google's ranking algorithm could have a huge effect on traffic

guest

06/24/2014 11:42 pm

I disagree that it needs a face lift ... not everysite has to look like the latest fad that will change in a year anyhow ... it is simple easy to navigate and very clean and clear in it's message ... I also see they tried to go ahead and do the Google+ and Facebook thing and look ... where did that get them? As google breaks down the real organic search returns and replaces them with all but 1 to 3 above the fold with all others paid or play to pay ads ... the ma and pa great sites loose out ... but in the end it will be google who goes under when people in general do not want or like all those pushy ad links - I never click on them and never have but I would click a link from a site like theirs

Dan Shure

06/25/2014 12:29 am

Here's a carbon copy of the comment I left on the CNBC article it's self (Yes, I get the irony of that); Everyone's focusing on "duplicate content" or technical things. Google (or someone) has done a good job at training people to automatically think "duplicate content" when they hear "Panda". The three giant elephants in the room for the cooking site are; 1. UX 2. Mobile 3. Trust For UX, this site is a really frustrating experience. I find it really difficult to simply find a recipe. Start on the homepage and try to just find a beef recipe. The page layout is inconsistent as you browse the site, etc. Many recipe sites also provide a print button, because naturally you might want to have it on paper while you cook. This site does not. Some recipe pages even have entire articles above them before the recipe. There are no easy ways to save or share the recipes either. The site is not mobile friendly - at all. I know a ton of recipe traffic will probably come from the phone and tablets of people actually in their kitchen. It's really hard to read a recipe from this site on your mobile phone (try it). Then there's trust. As a user (especially if I'm new to this site) - how can I know to trust it (ie: are the recipes good?) There are no reviews, no star ratings, no social share numbers, the design is untrustworthy, there is no commenting on recipes for me to read what others think of them. Heck, the only page with a logo is the homepage. Then there's the obvious ads and poor design.

newyorker_1

06/25/2014 05:56 am

move to Wordpress is going to cost tens of thousands of dollars. It seems the old lady is being ripped off...

Ashish Ahuja

06/25/2014 06:08 am

I don't think that's the case here otherwise the downfall would have been gradual downward progression. This site has been PENALISED by Panda update for LOW QUALITY CONTENT whereas the site obviously has good quality content.

F1 Steve

06/25/2014 08:48 am

"I visited the site and thought it looked fine" You would Durant, go hire a designer now before it to late, the days of DIY websites is closing in on you!

Yo Mamma

06/25/2014 11:39 am

"Old Web Site Devastated By Google's Panda Update" but your old writing.org, which was a link sharing site, See http://web.archive.org/web/19961230105052/http://www.writing.org/, was not hit. And its used to juice your main tourism sites. Gosh Google sure is dumb.... 1999 At the Webmaster's discretion, Writing.org will exchange reciprocal links with the following types of sites....... early Google days for sure You have at least removed your 'exchange reciprocal links' but you were never hit by Google. Others were and still not recovered. Favoritism and inconsistency on Google's part

James

06/25/2014 11:59 am

I agree with your observations. Not to mention title tags being used for keyword stuffing. The sad thing is (for the lady that runs it, no one else) is that is was "suddenly" demoted. That is hard for her to accept because it is like Google is saying "yesterday your site was good, today it is bad". But as a punter I would not use this site, the recipe niche is very competitive and there are many, many better sites than this. Google got it right, in the end.

the alive network

06/25/2014 12:02 pm

Yo Mamma look a little deeper into Durants backlinks, see that nice webmaster world do follow profile link? Didn't google just call this type of liking out?

James

06/25/2014 12:03 pm

For all those Google haters who scream "she's being forced into AdWords", consider this: this website is covered in AdSense. By demoting the site Google is reducing its own income too. This is at odds with the "forced into AdWords" argument.

Yo Mamma

06/25/2014 12:04 pm

If durant created it himself, its 'unnatural' according to Cutts. But durant has been given a free pass on all these issues. PS> whatscookingamerica.net has no 'link farm' juicing other sites she may or may not own, unlike durant. I like her site, looks delicious

Yo Mamma

06/25/2014 12:08 pm

Google cares less about sites that promote Adsense, so please stow it

Yo Mamma

06/25/2014 12:29 pm

Yes, but in the case of durant and writing.org, you can do 'everything wrong' (not really but still I see enough that would have slammed me) and not get slammed. People forget that Google is a people business not a code business

Yo Mamma

06/25/2014 12:32 pm

There is nothing civil about coming to one of your peers domains and criticizing them, almost daily. Your point? Probably trying to make them look bad and you good? Why not blog about this stuff on your own 'oh so superior' seo site? Just curious

Danish Pervez

06/25/2014 12:37 pm

Google is the sugar of the internet and I think it is about time we all admit that we all have Diabetes. The only way to treat Diabetes is to reduce our intake of sugar, and even out the components of our diet.

James

06/25/2014 12:49 pm

It's OK, I realise you will never, ever have any other point of view. I wonder what Google did to you, that makes you so angry. You certainly have a lot of time on your hands, why not try something constructive?

Jonathan

06/25/2014 12:57 pm

The 11th commandment reads, though shall not "out another SEO"

Haswyg

06/25/2014 01:21 pm

This is where Michael gets his inspiration... https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1261&bih=659&q=olan+mills+pictures&oq=olan+mills+pi&gs_l=img.3.1.0l2j0i5l3j0i24l5.1008.4043.0.5627.13.10.0.3.3.0.100.813.9j1.10.0....0...1ac.1.48.img..0.13.821.b62c2fwlv1Q

Mozalami

06/25/2014 01:58 pm

Sad indeed but what resources available for People 72 years old on SEO ?!

Yo Mamma

06/25/2014 02:55 pm

I try to be a righteous person, which includes given people chances. There is always redemption, unlike Google, but I do speak out and could care less if its about the prince or the pauper "There is no honor among thieves" And I have nothing to gain by a tourist site dropping in ranking, just that I still have some hope that fairness and integrity will rise over evil , greed, hypocrisy and corruption

Yo Mamma

06/25/2014 02:56 pm

You have all the answers, don't ask me questions

Jamo

06/25/2014 02:57 pm

LOLOLOL, tell that to the attention whores who out folks all the time. Once they can see a boost in their Klout score by outing someone, they will do it. There is no honor among thieves.

Michael Martinez

06/25/2014 03:53 pm

So you think criticism is uncivil, and that people should only be mindless sheep who do nothing but agree with nonsense? Shame on you. Go stand in the corner.

Fedor

06/25/2014 04:48 pm

Unless you have type 1 diabetes in which case you have no control and need an insulin pump.

Yo Mamma

06/25/2014 04:51 pm

Say one doctor walks into the other doctor's clinic. The visitor says to the patients: "Hey, what your doctor is saying is wrong" Then hands out his business card This is uncivil and uncool and unprofessional. You can critisze as a non-seo all day long as I do, but for heavens sake, don't promote yourself while at it. The mere fact you cannot fathom this small point tells me of some genetic mutation in your dna

Yo Mamma

06/25/2014 04:55 pm

Google is like the mob. They offer you the right to be in business: you can appear on their pages under their terms. But because they're the only serious game in town, they hold the cards and will drop you from natural results and you will be forced into paying protection money (adwords) to stay in business.

Yo Mamma

06/25/2014 04:58 pm

Dan Shure your entire opinion is that of design/architecture/ease-of-use and while those are important to me, those have NEVER been important to Google. Google routinely will 'feature' a site, even a very bad one, in any given market, let them get high on the results and money, then drop them for no reason and no chance of recovery. 'No chance of recovery' is a proven fact as many sites hit by penguin and panda have reformed but have not recovered, for no reason in over 2 years. Never an email or note in your Google account offering an answer. You're just GONE. The owner then needs to look at other ways of making money, like the farmers market, in this case, or ADWORDS and compete with major deep pocket players. Why the fed trade commission hasn't caught onto this is beyond me

dsfg

06/25/2014 05:14 pm

Or google is putting a site that converts better for ad revenue in her place... hmmm which is more likely the case... which is more self serving...

fghdfgh

06/25/2014 05:18 pm

Do what Durant does and shake your fist at those guideline breaking web spammers and yell at them to get off your lawn.

Dan Shure

06/25/2014 05:32 pm

1. Design - none of my comments were about design (colors, fonts, shapes, etc). 2. Architecture - err... this is pretty important for crawling as well as internal 'pagerank' or whatever people want to call it. 3. Ease of use - user metrics is a HUGE component of Panda I'm not disagreeing with how Google is going about this punitively, but the things I mentioned are definitely important to Google. They have said it themselves in many places.

Yo Mamma

06/25/2014 06:32 pm

Dan, I am not sure your angle on this but I can show many sites in top 5 positions that are TERRIBLE in design, architecture, user experience and have been there for many years. You mention you cannot find 'a recipe' What about a car design or a house design or comments on each, its no different the product. What I have found tho is those sites that have captured based on good design/architecture and had low bounce rates, typically are not given any credit. So instead of hammering on what your opinion on those meaningless items are, you should focus on a more sinister process of punishment without redemption which G$$gle dishes out. Oh, that includes the G$$GLE minions working their pathetic 'help' forums

Yo Mamma

06/25/2014 06:49 pm

"Google got it right, in the end." says durant's right hand man Durant has been saying that too. Did you look at his sites? HE-WHO-HAS-ALL-THE-ANSWERS Did you look at his sites? What do you think of them? Should Google 'get it right' with durant too? Please let me know Diurant said: Snowden and Assange weren't "black hats." They exposed the "black hats." (Assange used to break into secure buildings, physically, and hack into secure networks, just for fun - If that isn't BH, I don't know what is) I was BH and I expose BH and I have called those G$$gle minions that work their so-called help forums idiots too, to their faces, and they know who I am.

Michael Martinez

06/25/2014 09:49 pm

You are fumbling. There's nothing you can say while posting behind a silly screen name that will convince me to take you seriously.

Aaron

06/25/2014 09:56 pm

I believe the term you were looking for is actually "glass house".

Aaron

06/25/2014 10:04 pm

I think the effect is a bit more complicated than that. I have noticed on one of my websites that traffic went down with the latest Panda update, but when checking for scraped content found that Google is for the most part doing a good job recognizing my authorship of my content. Sure, there were some exceptions where sites that plagiarized excerpts ranked above me for a few sentences or a paragraph, or where my content had been plagiarized by authority sites (or in a published book) without attribution -- there will always be room for improvement -- but Google really does seem better than ever at identifying the actual originator of web content. What I saw was more that when your content has been online for years, and has been plagiarized for years, Google seems to devalue it. Even if it's evergreen. With tons of new content being added to the web every day, Google seems to be giving more weight to freshness. For most sites the effect would be modest, and would serve as an incentive to periodically review and update content and to keep adding new content. With a recipe site, built over years but with thousands of pages of content that would rarely or never need to be updated, the impact of a minor "freshness" change could be huge.

Yo Mamma

06/25/2014 11:12 pm

Fumbling? Lots of the domains under MMDI Enterprises are new and many appear to have a FOLLOW link back to http://www.mmdi.org right? I noticed at least one in the about page and not on the homepage (smart). Why is that and do you think that smart SEO? Your main site (OMG I hope not) http://www.seo-theory.com appears to have been purchased by you recently, kinda a takeover maybe by you. Why not start yo7ur own site from scratch Michael? Lazy or smart SEO? And it might just be me Michael, but why do web managers like you think it a good idea to place a FOLLOW link on your paying customers page, when you know full well that they have no clue the implications of said link, but you sure as hell do? I can never understand that Michael. You take their money, then hoodwink them into giving you juice unbeknownst to them? Is this fair and equitable? This is a hypothetical Michael because I cannot be sure you even have anything to do with these sites and could be an alien but you do show a domain in your disqus profile. Maybe you just want that to be the same Michael Martinez, but you're the nasty twin, dunno just pulling straws

Michael Martinez

06/26/2014 01:06 am

"Lots of the domains under MMDI Enterprises are new" Nope. And you have a problem with "follow" links? I don't. "And it might just be me Michael, but why do web managers like you think it a good idea to place a FOLLOW link on your paying customers page" You have no idea of what you are talking about. I suggest you stop now before you dig your hole deeper.

Danish Pervez

06/26/2014 06:50 am

I'd talk about using other search engines apart from Google, but then as a society we don't really have any self control. So I guess after screwing up the planet physically, this is the part where we screw it up virtually as well. *sigh*

Danish Pervez

06/26/2014 06:52 am

Pun aside, Fedor makes a pretty good point about the need for injecting an external influence. There is simply no other way Google can be prevented from exploiting the very dominance that the people have granted the search engine giant.

Danish Pervez

06/26/2014 06:56 am

If I may butt in James. I agree with you. But what worries me is the fear of too much power in one hand. You might have heard the famous analogy that 99% of the world's wealth is in the hands of 1% of the world's population. Similarly, we are coming to a point where 99% of power will be in the hands of the internet giants like Google that constitute perhaps 1% of all the stakeholders involved in this scenario. If we don't do something soon enough, the internet will begin problems similar to that which the global economy faces now.

Yo Mamma

06/26/2014 12:12 pm

I could name a few of the sites that have 'Michael Martinez' as owner and link back to MMDI Enterprises. You said "There's nothing you can say while posting behind a silly screen name that will convince me to take you seriously." Then you offer a threat "I suggest you stop now before you dig your hole deeper." My guess is you are now taking me seriously. Either the domains I'm referring to are not of paying customers or they are. They may not even be customers, but domains you acquired for the purpose of interest and a single backlink. News sites that go belly-up are often acquired for this purpose, but gambling? Its not uncommon that website managers dump their name and follow backlink on their customer's pages. I think this immoral and frankly cannot get my head around it. Michael, you're obviously intelligent but maybe this seo stuff isn't for you, but there is no harm to keep on looking. But like you said "There's nothing you can say while posting behind a silly screen name that will convince me to take you seriously." PS> I don't have an issue with FOLLOW links as you suggest, but Google does. Google has repeatedly stated that a FOLLOW link between sites created on purpose for conveyance of juice, is an UNNATURAL LINK and baaaaaad.

Yo Mamma

06/26/2014 12:17 pm

You're an observant man

Michael Martinez

06/26/2014 02:37 pm

You're bizarre. Seriously bizarre. You spend a lot of time complaining about Google and bashing other people in these comments. Now you're imagining threats. As for what links to one of my Websites, I have never and never will ask or require that any of my clients link to them. That's just the dumbest possible thing you could say in any attempt to embarrass me.

Yo Mamma

06/26/2014 03:54 pm

No such attempt has been made to embarrass you, you would likely do a great job all by yourself and don't need my help for that in the slightest. Why are the links there then MM? How did they get there? Its a simple question. Oh PS when you stated about the lil old lady's site "Yeah, her recent acquisition of backlinks from insurance Websites couldn't possibly figure into all this." you don't think that was bashing her site? If someone comments on your SEO strategy you think that an assault on your senses? TO quote you MM "You're bizarre. Seriously bizarre." And yes, MM you need to understand what qualifies as a threat and what you said qualified

Michael Martinez

06/26/2014 08:53 pm

You should quit wasting your time with this nonsense.

Adam Heaton

06/27/2014 08:14 am

Okay...

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